Politics

Florida Teachers Repeatedly Misuse Guns, but Lawmakers Want to Arm Them Anyway

Protesters with March for Our Lives, Moms Demand Action, and Everytown at a Parkland rally in 2018
Protesters with March for Our Lives, Moms Demand Action, and Everytown at a Parkland rally in 2018 Photo by Ian Witlen
After the Parkland shooting last year, a modest package of gun-control laws passed through the Florida Legislature with one notable deletion: language about arming schoolteachers. As part of a compromise, lawmakers agreed to remove the controversial measure — but this year, the idea is back.

Tomorrow a state Senate bill that would allow trained teachers to carry guns at school (SB 7030) will go up for a vote before the Senate Appropriations Committee. A vote on the companion House bill has been temporarily postponed while members of both chambers negotiate the differences between the two measures.

Although the proposal to arm teachers is popular among some conservatives, most Floridians oppose such a plan, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll. There's also plenty of evidence that teachers with guns can be downright dangerous. Last week, Giffords, the gun-violence prevention organization led by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, put together an analysis of more than 60 incidents of mishandled guns at schools across the nation, including nine in Florida. Last year, the Tampa Bay Times did something similar, pulling state disciplinary reports that showed teachers and other school staff had made threats of violence, sometimes against students.

Now New Times has identified a litany of troubling incidents involving Florida educators, including many that have gone previously unreported. According to records from the Florida Department of Education:
Penalties for those teachers ranged from a letter of reprimand to the permanent revocation of teaching certifications.


Of course, those incidents don't reflect what happens in the vast majority of classrooms under the supervision of dedicated, hardworking Florida teachers. But some of the state's top educators say even well-meaning teachers could mistakenly misuse a gun if they were to be armed. The president of the statewide teachers' union, Fed Ingram of the Florida Education Association, has said he fears the possibilities.

"I don’t want any of my children’s teachers having guns because I don’t want them to be placed in a situation to make a mistake," Ingram told Florida Politics in February.

Ahead of Thursday's vote, the gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety has been driving a digital billboard truck around Tallahassee to discourage lawmakers from passing the bills. The organization also ran full-page ads Sunday in the Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Times, Tallahassee Democrat, St. Lucie County News, Orlando Sentinel, and Bradenton Herald.
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Jessica Lipscomb is news editor of Miami New Times and an enthusiastic Florida Woman. Born and raised in Orlando, she has been a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists.
Contact: Jessica Lipscomb